On an event in California Theatre in downtown San Jose, CA, Apple Inc. unveiled what the company considers the key products for the 2012 Holiday Season. The company caused a lot of stir by sending the 3rd generation iPad into oblivion. Thus, buyers that acquired the iPad from March 22, 2012 can consider their purchase obsolete. However, that is how Apple always operated, and there should be no surprises there.
At the event, Apple executives made clear that the future lies with the new smart connector dubbed Lighting connector, and they wanted to make sure their line-up will be top to bottom compatible with the new accessories that are coming online.
The New New iPad e.g. 4th Generation iPad 9.7"
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the event was the launch of iPad 4, a refreshed version of the New iPad (iPad 3) which was launched on March 22, 2012. This move raised quite a lot of reaction, including a reaction on Forbes.
Be that as it may, the New New iPad is simply called "iPad with Retina Display" or 4th Gen iPad. There are only three changes, but we would say they are quite important. The new iPad is powered by the in-house A6X processor, for which Apple claims it offers twice the CPU and twice the GPU performance when compared to the now old A5X. We believe that with A6X, Apple moved to cover the performance offered by Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro and the upcoming Nvidia Tegra 4 (T40) processors. Second change was expected, with the 8-pin Lighting connector replacing the old 30-pin one.
All iPads at a glance; the 7.9" iPad mini, 9.7" iPad 2 and 9.7" iPad 4 (iPad with Retina Display)
Third change was in relation to the front camera, which now supports HD Ready resolution (1280×720). Rear camera still supports the 1080p video recording and offers automatic video stabilization. Taking pictures with the big iPad is still limited to five million pixels, though.
The pricing is identical to the previous gen iPad, and it starts at $499 for a 16GB WiFi model, going all the way to $829 for a 64GB model with 4G and WiFi.
iPad Mini 7.9"
If Steve Jobs was alive, this is a project which would not see light of the day. Or if it would, the late CEO of Apple would probably eat his words when he mocked the 7" tablets. During the today’s launch, the same mocking attitude had Apple’s representatives comparing iPad mini to the Google Nexus 7, blasting the features of a product which costs 63% less than the new iPad mini. Without a doubt, iPad mini is a great looking product. As Apple says, it is thin as a pencil (7.2mm) and weighs as a pad of paper (0.68 pounds, 308 grams, 0.31 kg).
The 7.9" LCD screen offers the same resolution as previous iPads (1024×768), but has greater pixel density. Processor is a bit of a down, with Apple using the original A5 and not the A5X – which means the same processor inside the iPhone 4 and iPad 2.
Just like the big iPad, iPad mini comes with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacity, with Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi + 3G/4G LTE capabilities. The Wi-Fi only models range in price for $329 to $529, while Wi-Fi+3G/4G models will set you back anywhere between $459 and $659.
iMac 21.5" and 27"
Apple also launched three conventional PC products. iMac 21.5" and 27" represent much more than a refresh, as the case was completely redesigned. The new iMacs now are as thin as a regular human finger, and the new design fits Intel Core i5 and i7 processors (quad-core), as well as Kepler-based GeForce GTX 600 Series cards. The 21.5" iMac comes with GT 640M 512MB or the GT 650M 512MB, while the large 27" iMac features GTX 660M 512MB or 675M 1GB. Should you find the compute power inefficient, you can upgrade to GTX 680M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, in which case you will have the full GK104 chip (known on PC desktops as the GTX 660 Ti, GTX 670 and GTX 680) at your disposal.
Resolution is the same, 1920×1080 on the 21.5" and 2560×1440 on the 27" model. Besides the thin design, new iMacs also come with a new storage configuration, which mixes hard drives and solid state storage. You can purchase an iMac with 1TB HDD, 1TB "Fusion drive" (HDD + 128GB SSD), 3TB HDD, 3TB Fusion drive and 768GB of SSD (512GB + 256GB). Regardless of the configuration you select, all iMacs have a single partition. System memory has four user accessible SO-DIMMs, and you can outfit the iMac with up to 32GB of DDR3 memory.
21.5" iMac will be available in November with starting price of $1299 (2.7GHz) and $1499 (2.9GHz), while 27" models will come to market in December for $1799 (2.9GHz) and $1999 (3.2GHz).
MacBook Pro 13.3" with Retina Display
Last but not least, Apple unveiled the 13.3" MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Caught off-guard with PC vendors such as ASUS offering ultrathin notebooks with 1080p panels, Apple returned to the top with highest resolution displays in the form factor. The 13.3" panel still carries the much covered 16:10 ratio, offering resolution which is typically present on 30" displays. Even though this is just an upscaled 1280×800, the fact you can hack your 13.3" laptop to run the full 2560×1600 resolution is something anyone will take notice, even if you openly dislike fruity products.
There are two 13.3" MacBook Pro with Retina Display laptops on offer, and they both carry the same dual-core Intel Core i5 processor operating at 2.5GHz. Given that Retina Display models do not offer discrete graphics, we’re not sure what the performance will be – after all, Intel HD 4000 graphics did not exactly shone with the 13" MacBook Air.
Regardless of liking Apple or not, it is clear that the company is in the fifth gear when it comes to launching products, making them obsolete within the same calendar year or offering features which you cannot see anywhere else. By stubbornly keeping the unpopular display ratios (4:3 on tablets and 16:10 on notebooks), Apple is sending a message that it is big enough and that it won’t look at cost savings when it comes to offering the best possible performance.
Apple is the largest PC company on the market, and other players are well aware of that. The question is, just how impressive Windows 8 designs have to be in order to capture the audience when compared to the new iPad, iMac and MacBook Pro. As a side note, the date of pre-ordering the new iPads is quite telling – the same date Microsoft launches Windows 8 with all the associated PCs, ultrathins and tablets.